If you’re reading this right now, you have probably just opened your appraisal value notice letter from the county and immediately googled, “Austin Tax Protest” or some variation of those keywords.. If this is the case, you are in the right place. I have talked to more disgruntled homeowners this year about protesting their taxes, than any previous year in my 14 years as a Realtor.
The questions I usually get are:
- Can they really raise my property tax value that much??
- Do you think my home is really worth what the county says it is??
- What do we do about it?
And my reply is:
- Protest, Protest, Protest!
So how do you go about protesting your property taxes? Have no fear, I have the answers.
Decide if you want to handle this yourself or hire a professional.
There are pros and cons to both approaches. If you are more hands on and have the time to go into the Appraisal District’s office, my step-by-step guide to protesting your taxes is below. If you are too busy or don’t want to take on the task yourself, I can walk you through hiring a professional as well.
HIRING A PROFESSIONAL.
If you don't want to tackle this problem on your own, you can always hire a PRO. There are a lot of good property tax protest companies out there. They structure their fees as a percentage of what they save you on your taxes.
Example-- The county values your home at $450,000. 123TaxProtests, LLC goes to bat for you and lowers that valuation to $400,000. This saves you approximately $1,000 on your tax bill. You would pay 123TaxProtests, LLC a portion of that savings (typically 20-40%), about $200-400 and they would have saved you between $600-800.
Normally, I don't recommend just one company when anyone asks for a referral. However, we've personally had amazing results with TexasProTax.com. They have a great team (some of whom are former employees of the county) with offices right next door to the appraisal district's office. They have an easy online system and you can sign up to have them protest every year on your behalf.
Protesting your taxes yourself.
#1 - Submit the paperwork on time!
Make sure you submit the paperwork to protest BEFORE the deadline ends. In Travis County that is May 31st, 2016 or 30 days after you receive your appraised value.
The best way to protest your taxes is online, here.
Travis County Appraisal District (TCAD) has a great video explaining the process here.
#2 - BE PREPARED for filing your protest
Have recent comparable sales in hand.
Put together a list of reasons why your home should receive a lower value-- i.e. Your home backs to a busy street. Or, your home hasn't been updated since 1962.
Feel free to reach out to us for a FREE in-depth home evaluation that we can customize for your protesting needs.
#3 - It’s Better to Settle!
It is almost ALWAYS better to settle with the county through the informal protest process. With TCAD, this all happens online now and is a much easier way to get a reduction. If you opt to not accept the results of the informal hearing, you will be scheduled to go to a Formal Protest.
#4 The Formal Protest
Opting to attend a Formal Protest is a whole different animal altogether. You will be brought before a panel of people who will review your case. Be prepared to provide multiple copies of your documents for everyone involved (usually 5 copies, plus your copy).
From my experience, Formal Protests are not always productive. I’ve even seen a few cases where the protest backfired and the county raised their taxes. So tread lightly or consult a real estate attorney.
We are happy to make a recommendation for some excellent real estate attorneys if the need arises.
I almost always recommend challenging your property taxes the year after you purchase a new home. The county is at liberty to raise your property tax value any amount they wish the year after you take possession. In years to follow they are only allowed to raise your taxes by 10%. The first year will set a precedent for all following years, so go ahead and push hard for a lower value.
Make sure you are taking every exemption possible with the county. For the majority of you, that would be filing for your Homestead Exemption. If you are over-65 or disabled, there are other exemptions for you as well. If you know of anyone over-65 that may not have the paperwork filed, we would be happy to assist them in getting it done.
The last thing I will say on the topic--and this is a little bit of a soapbox moment--we are privileged to live in one of the greatest cities in the world. Austin’s diverse population, acres and acres of city parks, greenbelts and swimming holes, our amazing rivers and lakes are all maintained by this tax base. I ALWAYS challenge my property taxes, but I always pay the bill with a smile to be able to enjoy living in such an amazing place.
Disclaimer: All counties in Texas handle property taxes and property tax value protests differently. If you are NOT in Travis County, consult a local professional. We can also provide insight on working with Williamson County and Hays County. We can put you in touch with a local professional in any other county in Texas. That being said, please don’t consider any of this article as legal counsel. I am not an attorney and do not claim to be. Otherwise, happy protesting!